I am standing under the Arc de Triomphe watching the presidents of France and Poland lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier, then reignite the flame, signifying the end of the War in Europe in 1945. It is a somber occasion, and from my vantage point I can only see a portion of it.
I had walked down the Champs Elysees mostly to people watch and window shop, but also to see the arch itself. It is an imposing sight standing as it does at the axis of 12 different crossroads like the center of a clock in the Place de Charles DeGaulle.
I am amazed that I can draw so near to these world leaders without drawing any real scrutiny. But I do, and the ceremony is over with fairly quickly.
I have walked all over central Paris today, and my knee is telling me it was a bad idea. From near the Eiffel Tower I made my way to the Louvre along both banks of the Seine, stopping along the way to marvel at the scenery or simply get out of the rain.
Poor planning has me arriving at the museum 2 hours before it will close. I decide it’s best to see it some other time rather than rush through it like a scene out of European Vacation.
It’s still raining as I wander back west under the smaller Arc de Triomphe de Carousel toward the Luxor obelisk when it starts to rain. I duck under a small umbrella to find some shelter when I’m approached by a waiter who demands that I order something if I sit here.
I order up a coffee. While I’m waiting, a similar scene is taking place at the table next to me, only the man looking for a dry place to stand is arguing with a different waiter. I can’t tell exactly what they’re saying, but it’s getting heated, and it’s obvious the guy doesn’t want to pay to simply stand out of the rain.
Lora asks me what can the waiter do? Calling the police isn’t very practical. Soon enough, we find out, as the waiter simply folds up the umbrella, leaving the argumentative man and an innocent woman bystander out in the cold. Problem solved. Voila!
Anyway, we make it back down the street, intermittently ducking the infrequent showers and generally enjoying ourselves, watching the ducks and even a goat employed to “mow” the ditches until we reach the obelisk, then proceed to the Arc. It’s a pleasant walk on a grand boulevard and it’s a great place to people watch, as there is a pretty good mix of locals and tourists there, especially in the long walks between monuments and/or attractions. Plus here you will find every shrine ever erected to gross overconsumption, and some genuinely cool stuff, like a very strange Peugot from a movie.
We started out the day late kind of blundering around looking for the right café’. We found a pretty good one, and Lora orders up a huge breakfast of ham, cheese, croissant, some other buttered bread with jam, coffee, and OJ, along with some of the best French Toast I’ve ever had, but I guess that’s no surprise.
We head back to the 15th and eat at a fairly forgettable place with ordinary food for Paris, which is to say very good for anywhere else. I have the escargot with a salmon entrée, and Lora has a very nice steak.
Then it’s back to the Seine for a ride down the river by boat. We sit out in the open, despite the chilly temperatures, and enjoy the sights and lights. Highly recommended, but don’t make the mistake of getting aboard with an Indian man whose ego is so big he can’t relinquish the prime photo spot on the boat for even one second, monopolizing the opportunity to allow others to be in the same photo with famous landmarks, even from his own family, though he did a good job of posing and directing that his picture be taken from his quiet, if not thoroughly abused, wife.
Tomorrow we’re determined to see the Louvre. If we get up on time.